Goffstown’s Duval, Merrimack’s Eichman among 10 new commitments to UNH football

Monitor staff
Thursday, February 08, 2018

The University of New Hampshire football team unveiled a list of 10 new commitments on Wednesday, and one of the names is all too familiar to the Concord High football team.

On the very first play of 2017, back on Sept. 2, the Crimson Tide gave up a 92-yard kickoff return touchdown to Goffstown’s Andrew Duval. A few minutes later, Duval was back in the end zone, this time on the end of a 44-yard reception. When it was all over, Duval had four catches for 138 yards and Concord had a 29-9 loss.

Now Duval will be see if his football talents can translate to the college level at UNH. The 5-foot-10, 180-pound wide receiver/defensive back was one 10 players who officially signed with New Hampshire on Wednesday, joining the seven incoming student-athletes who committed to the program during the early signing period in December.

Concord was not the only team to get hit by a Duval haymaker last fall. He was named the New Hampshire Gatorade Player of the Year after finishing with 27 catches for 718 yards (26.6 yards per catch) and 16 total touchdowns - 11 receiving, two rushing, one passing, one interception return and that one kickoff return against the Tide. 

“You get the ball to Andrew Duval, he’s a special player, that’s kind of what we’re trying to do out here,” Goffstown coach Justin Hufft said after the Concord game.

“He’s a great kid, a great teammate. The kids love playing with him,” Hufft added. “You always enjoy having a kid like that on your team.”

UNH coach Sean McDonnell agrees.

“Andrew is an outstanding, multiple position prospect for us here at UNH. He has the ability to make plays on either side of the ball,” McDonnell said. “He has great vision and anticipation and his production has been off the charts. He had an outstanding high school career and has shown us his many talents and his competitiveness at many of our camps. He has a high football IQ combined with great quickness and speed.”

McDonnell and ‘the Cats inked a second in-state WR/DB on Wednesday, Merrimack’s Joe Eichman. The 6-0, 190-pound Eichman finished his career with 4,735 total yards and 58 touchdowns. Like Duval, he will play a final game wearing his old high school colors when he takes to his new college field for the CHaD East-West All-Star game on June 30 at Wildcat Stadium.

“Joe is another highly productive, two-way player who is very explosive and dynamic,” McDonnell said. “He combines outstanding speed with great vision and quickness. Joe has a great knack for making big plays on both sides of the ball, and he will add athleticism to our team in many different areas.”   

McDonnell’s statements on Duval and Eichman indicate they could wind up on either side of the ball, but the 19-year coach was clearer on the other seven recruits who signed on Wednesday. McDonnell sees three defensive backs (SymirBlacknall, 6-0, 175, Manalapan, N.J.; Max Oxendine, 6-0, 200, Chester, Va.; Derek Thompson, 5-10, 180, Bear, Del.), one wide receiver (Charles Briscoe III, 6-0, 190, Bowie, Md.), one defensive lineman (JustonCogbill, 6-3, 270, Atlanta), one offensive lineman (Chris Donnelly, 6-3, 265, Park Ridge, N.J.), one tight end (Kyle Lepkowski, 6-4, 230, Adamstown, Md.) and one kicker (Jordan Conn, 5-10, 170, Woodbridge, Conn.).

The emphasis on defensive backs follows a recent trend for the Wildcats, which makes sense considering their 4-2-5 scheme and the need for defenders to cover lots of ground in this era of spread offenses.

Oxendine’s credentials and highlight reel stood out among the three newly-signed defensive backs. He had six interceptions, two returned for touchdowns, during his post-graduate year at Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy. Oxendine was named the defensive team MVP for the 8-1 Fork Union team, and his video clips made it clear that plenty of his 35 tackles were of the devastating variety.

Briscoe had 29 catches for 657 yards and six touchdowns as a senior, and he hails from a part of the country that has already delivered a great wide receiver to Durham. R.J. Harris, who owns the UNH record for career receptions (310) grew up in Odenton, Md., which is just 12 miles from Briscoe’s hometown of Bowie, Md.

Lepkowski is another pass catcher from Maryland who will be coming to New Hampshire. He had 55 catches for 786 yards and five touchdowns as a senior at Tuscarora High in Adamstown (63 miles from Odenton). His video highlights show an impressive mix of size, speed and hands … and tight end’s with -ski at the end of their last name have a pretty good track record here in New England.

While there were no New Hampshire players among the early-signing commits, there were four from New England - quarterback Bret Edwards (6-1, 175, Lowell, Mass.), offensive lineman OshoOmoyeni (6-3, 270, Lowell, Mass.), linebacker Zachary Banks (6-3, 225, Westminster, Mass.) and defensive lineman NikoKvietkus (6-3, 260, Southington, Conn.).

Edwards was the Merrimack Valley Conference Division I MVP last year for Central Catholic in Lawrence, Mass., and he finished his career with 4,736 passing yards and 54 touchdown passes. He’s also a basketball standout and a 6-4 high jumper, which means he has the kind of athletic ability the Wildcats want in a quarterback.

“(Edwards) has a great pocket presence and his feet and legs will give him the ability to extend plays at the college level,” McDonnell said when Edwards committed in December. “We are excited that this dual threat QB will be here carrying on the tradition of quarterback play at UNH."

The other players who committed during the early signing period were linebacker/running back Jacob “JJ” Jerome (5-11, 205, Monroe, Wash.), running back Dylan Laube (5-10, 190, Westhampton, N.Y.) and offensive lineman David Perry, Jr. (6-5, 290, Springfield, Va.)

“I think we’ve added some very versatile, highly skilled players who can help us on both sides of the ball,” McDonnell said. “We filled different needs at both offensive and defensive positions, and I’m looking forward to seeing these student-athletes help us continue as one of the top FCS teams in the country.”

The Wildcats are coming off a 9-5 season that saw them reach the FCS quarterfinals and extend their national-best streak of playoff appearances to 14 straight years.

(Tim O’Sullivan can be reached at 369-3341 or tosullivan@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @timosullivan20.)